DarkSyde interviews the new chairman of the House Science Committee’s subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. Chris Mooney rejoices in Henry Waxman’s scheduled hearing on abuse of federal climate scientists. Nancy Pelosi proposes a select committee on climate change and energy independence.
The first two are great. Expanded oversight into abuse of federal scientists and abuse of science by federal agencies will help undo a lot of the damage that’s been done.
But Pelosi’s move would go further, giving Congress a chance to really move forward.
Legislation in Congress always starts life in a committee. And a committee’s chairman/chairwoman has tremendous power to block bills that he/she doesn’t care for. The committee that any climate change legislation would have to pass through is currently chaired by Rep. John Dingell. Dingell is responsible for the Endangered Species Act, and ultimately passed the Clean Air Act, too.
The latter bill languished for a decade, though, while he sorted out what the Big Three auto makers would be OK with. Dingell does, after all, represent Michigan, the home base of those auto makers. And until they get a clue and recognize that their own lack of innovation is what has let Toyota overtake them to become the largest car manufacturer, they will keep digging in their heels. So long as they dig in their heels, Congressman Dingell is unlikely to move anything comprehensive through his committee. The odds of getting aggressive hearings on the subject are even pretty slim. (Note: As intransigent as Dingell might be, Joe Barton, his predecessor as chair of that committee, was even worse.)
Which is where the proposed committee on climate change and energy independence would come in. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey would chair the committee, and while it apparently would not have the power to send legislation to the floor, it would be in a position to generate a record of testimony that could lay a groundwork of support for legislation that gets proposed elsewhere. And since Markey also has a senior position on Dingell’s committee, it’s likely that the new committee would play an important role in informing the Energy and Commerce committee’s action.
There is the possibility that the new committee will not be created. Dingell, of course, opposes it. So does Henry Waxman, a Dingell protege and environmental bulldog. Assuming no Republicans vote to create that committee (and I doubt any would), only 16 Democrats would have to oppose the committee for it to fail.
Speaker Pelosi may be using this proposal as a bargaining chip with Chairman Dingell, a way to show just how serious she is about having climate change legislation hit the floor by July. On the other hand, there is currently no committee with a broad environmental focus in the House. Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Science and Technology all cover some environmental issues. Creating a committee to cover environmental issues like climate change or air and water quality that could stretch into each of those other committees would make a certain amount of sense, though it might be somewhat duplicative in some cases.
It’s good to see that science and scientific oversight are one of many areas where this Congress is showing the way. We can take the President’s grudging use of the words “climate change” as an agreement to see where that way leads.